Conversations about life, and how we choose to live it.
The Family of Things is an audio podcast about ideas, life and how we choose to live it from the award winning producers Athena Media. The series is available to stream or download on Soundcloud, you can enjoy it with the transcript in YouTube, or you can subscribe to it as a podcast wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts in platforms including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Anchor, Radio Public, Spotify, Stitcher and of course an RSS Feed.
In the Family of Things Helen Shaw talks to people about their life’s journey, about what has formed them, and what motivates them. The podcast title takes its name from a poem by Mary Oliver ‘Wild Geese‘.
Professor Lauren Arrington is a Florida native who has made Ireland her home, and the focus of her research and writing. In this episode of The Family of Things she shares with Helen Shaw how Ireland, and its writers, drew her in, and how when she first came to study at Trinity College Dublin she thought Dublin was a big metropolis because her roots were in rural and small town Southern America. Today she is Professor English Literature at Maynooth University and her new work ‘The Poets of Rapallo’ on the shadow of fascism on the lives and work of writers, including WB Yeats, is just out. In this revealing conversation Lauren shares how she gave birth to her second child, just about the day she moved to Dublin at the beginning of lockdown in 2020, and how lockdown affected her and her young family.
Indian poet and arts manager, Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan is Helen Shaw’s guest in this episode of The Family of Things. She was born in New Delhi and as child lived in the Presidential Palace with her grandparents as her grandfather was K.R. Narayanan, the first Indian President to be elected from the Dalit community. Chandrika’s mother is an Indian diplomat and, as a young girl, she moved with her to Sweden and later to Turkey where she finished school. She came to Dublin in 2012, took a Masters in Arts Management & Cultural Policy at UCD, and since then, as she says herself, she has found both a home and her tribe here, particularly in the queer, creative community.
Helen Shaw’s guest in this episode is journalist, author and environmentalist Paddy Woodworth. Paddy is the author of ‘Our Once and Future Planet’ (2018), an exploration of how we restore our environment. In this conversation he shares how he became a nature lover when he was a young boy and his parents would de-camp from Bray to a nissan hut in Co Wicklow for the long summer months enjoying the outdoors. Helen and Paddy crossed paths in the mid 1980s when they were both journalists in the Irish Times and Paddy was well known as an expert on the Basque conflict. His earlier work ‘Dirty War, Clean Hands’ (2001) charted how the Spanish State confronted ETA and is seen as a seminal study on post-Franco Spain.
Helen Shaw’s guest in this episode of The Family of Things is Steafán Hanvey an Irish singer-songwriter and poet, from Downpatrick, who has long found his home in Finland. Steafán’s father is the well known Northern Irish photographer Bobbie Hanvey, and his poetry-photography book ‘Reconstructions’ (2018) presents his poems as conversations with his father’s iconic photographs of ‘The Troubles’. Today Steafán, as the pandemic paused his music career, has started a new professional life as a photographer, following once again in his father’s footsteps, although his photos are often beautiful portraits and landscapes from Finland. In this episode Steafán shares how lockdown, and the pandemic year, crossed with one of the worst in his life, one of heartache and heartbreak.
Today’s The Family of Things guest with Helen Shaw is writer, feminist, digital humanities leader and researcher, Professor Gerardine Meaney of University College Dublin. Helen and Gerardine were both students in UCD studying English and History in the early 80s but while Helen moved on to journalism, Gerardine, a self-confessed book addict, stayed in research and began hunting for the loss voices of women writers, written out or censored in Ireland. Her quest to give voice to the women who were always there but erased led to her work in books like ‘Reading the Irish Woman’ (2013) and her seminal study ‘Gender, Ireland and Cultural Change’ (2010).
This week’s guest with host Helen Shaw is modern troubadour Jack Lukeman, singer, songwriter and once time leader of the 90s band Jack L and the Black Romantics. Jack shares his journey from growing up in Athy, his apprenticeship as a motor mechanic ,to ending up discovering his stage self as a busker in Amsterdam and becoming part of the very lively and bohemian nightlife culture of Dublin in the early 1990s.
Dr Kathleen Turner says she sang her way through school, and today she’s an academic who uses singing as a social good, and sees her mission as empowering the creativity in everyone. Kathleen is Helen Shaw’s guest in this episode of The Family of Things, a podcast about life, and how we choose to live it. Kathleen is a Co.Tyrone native but she has long made Limerick City her home and she leads the Masters in Community Music programme there, at the World Academy for Music and Dance, in the University of Limerick.
Robert John Hope
Robert John Hope is a Berlin based singer and songwriter whose debut solo album ‘Plasticine Heart’ is released April 23rd 2021. A Co. Mayo native, Rob is well known on the Irish music scene as the front man for the indie band Senakah, a group that came together in Limerick in 2005, and had two hit albums ‘Sweeter than Bourbon’ and ‘Human Relations’ before the band went their separate ways.
In this episode of the Family of Things Rob, who once worked with Athena Media as a documentary-maker, shares with Helen his decision to make Berlin his home seven years ago and how, he has found his voice, and his music mojo, after a dark period when he thought he might never sing again. His debut solo album ‘Plasticine Heart’ is released April 23rd and was recorded in Berlin and features Rob’s old colleagues from Senakah, bass player Yvonne Conaty and drummer Daragh O’Loughlin.
Ruth Smith is well known to radio listeners for her weekly RTÉ Radio 1 show Simply Folk but Ruth is a woman of many hats and talents. She is also part of the female singing trio ‘The Evertides’ with her singing sisters Ruth McGill and Alma Kelliher and her creative work includes writing poetry and fiction.
She was born, as Ruth says, a middle child in a family running a busy and bustling Portumna pub in Co. Galway, she grew up performing, doing turns in the pub playing fiddle and became an accomplished pianist. She went to Trinity College Dublin to study drama and theatre, she still has an occasional life on stage as an actor, and today she lives in East Clare, with her husband, fellow musician Fergal Scahill (of We Banjo 3), and their rescue cat and two dogs.
In this episode of The Family of Things Ruth shares an often deeply personal journey of self-discovery and how a turbulence time in her late twenties, and early thirties, when her first marriage ended, and she felt lost, helped her find confidence in her own voice, and the power to use it for a positive purpose.
Helen Shaw’s guest in this episode of The Family of Things is film-maker Frank Berry whose work tells stories of social realism in often tough suburbs from the documentary film ‘Ballymun Lullaby’ at the time of the tearing down of the Ballymun Towers to dramas like ‘I Used to Live Here’, touching on youth mental health and suicide to the more recent and acclaimed ‘Michael Inside’ about a teenage boy caught up in the quicksand of the Irish prison system.
Frank loves working with young people and his twin passions are teaching and film-making, looking for the moments when he can turn a switch on in someone’s mind.
In this episode of The Family of Things Helen Shaw’s guest is the psychologist and author Dr Tony Bates. Tony founded Headstrong, (now Jigsaw), the National Agency for Youth Mental Health, after a long career in clinical psychology.
He was the co-editor of Vision for Change, the mental health strategic review in 2006 and that work motivated him to create an NGO with a mission to provide mental health resources for young people. Jigsaw now has 13 centres across Ireland and has become a critical part of support services for young people in Ireland.
Tony is also credited as one of the people who brought the practice of mindfulness to Ireland following his own experience at the buddhist retreat centre in Plum Village, France with the spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh. He is the author of ‘Coming Through Depression, a Mindful Approach to Recovery’.
Helen Shaw’s guest in this edition of the The Family of Things podcast is Irish scientist and astro physicist Professor Peter Gallagher. The Family of Things is a podcast by Athena Media.
Peter Gallagher leads solar physics and space weather research at Trinity College Dublin. Gallagher researches the Sun, in particular solar storms and their impact on Earth. He is Director of the Rosse Solar Terrestrial Observatory at Birr Castle and leads the Irish LOFAR radio telescope project. Gallagher says he was always fascinated by how things work when he was a small boy, even taking the television apart to see what made it work but was a lack lustre student at school.
Vivienne DeCourcy, the writer and director of the new feature film ‘Dare to be Wild’ is Helen Shaw’s guest in episode 12 of The Family of Things.
‘Dare to be Wild’, is based on the true story of Irish wild garden designer Mary Reynolds who won the Chelsea Garden Show in 2002. The film is Vivienne’s directorial debut and in this podcast Vivienne talks about her connection to the film’s message, the importance of the environment, nature conservation on our planet and the connection between man and the environment. Vivienne, a former lawyer, began writing scripts after surviving cancer and she talks about her instinctive relationship with the outdoors and nature from her childhood.
Helen Shaw’s guest is performer and accidental activist Rory O’Neill AKA the Queen of Ireland Panti Bliss.
Rory talks about his memoir ‘Woman in the Making’ (Hachette 2014) and his personal journey from growing up in rural Ireland to become a ‘national treasure’ as the drag queen Panti who he says has become a sort of ‘avatar for change’. Rory shares the highs and lows of the last two years since his celebrated speech on the stage of the Abbey Theatre which mobilised support for the Marriage Equality Referendum that was passed by the Irish public in May 2015.
Author and researcher Eleanor Fitzsimons is our latest guest in The Family of Things.
Eleanor’s acclaimed biography of Oscar Wilde from the perspective of the women in his life ‘Wilde’s Women‘ opens new windows on both Wilde and his work.
Eleanor beautifully written and carefully researched study was published in Ireland in Autumn 2015 and is being released in the US this year. In this conversation with presenter Helen Shaw she introduces us to Wilde’s intriguing mother, Jane Wilde a celebrated writer in her own time, and his much suffering wife Constance LLoyd as well as the women writers who influenced and inspired Wilde.
Nóirín Hegarty found her calling as a news reporter but moved into news management at just 25 years of age.
She was editor of the national sunday newspaper The Sunday Tribune at a time when there were very few women editors in Ireland and lead that newspaper from 2005 until it closed in 2011. Since then she’s been at the heart of digital change in the print industry but says she’s finally found her dream job with iconic travel brand Lonely Planet.
She moved family and home to London to take up an editorial post with Lonely Planet but she then had the chance to open a Lonely Planet office in Dublin – bringing it all back home again.
In Episode 8 of The FAMILY of THINGS, Helen Shaw’s guest is a man known for his winning speed and more recently his winning food – it’s champion sprinter and Celebrity Masterchef David Gillick.David Gillick, who is now retired from competitive running, still holds the Irish indoor and outdoor 400m records and he won two Gold European medals as well as being a world finalist during his track career. In this episode of The Family of Things David shares his life story, what motivates him and what he has learnt along the way.
Today he is a corporate coach sharing his sporting strategies with business leaders and he is also mentoring school students in athletics as well as playing in his local GAA team.
Helen Shaw’s guest this episode is Cork born composer Linda Buckley who writes contemporary music drawing inspiration from the world around her, from the soundscape of her childhood growing up on a diary farm overlooking the Old Head of Kinsale to other places close to her heart including Iceland.
Buckley’s work has been performed by Crash Ensemble, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the University of York Javanese Gamelan to name a few, and its mix of vocal, acoustic and electronic sounds is often termed spacial music.
Buckley draws references from medieval music and sees her works not just as compositions but as live engagements defined by space and audiences.
Helen Shaw meets actor and writer Mark O’Halloran the creative force behind the darkly comic films Adam and Paul and Garage. Mark talks about growing up in a big family in Ennis and his journey to become a writer and performer.
He describes how limiting Ireland was as a young gay man and how a year spent in Amsterdam liberated him. He found a creative soul-mate in director Lenny Abrahamson and the two made the acclaimed independent film Adam and Paul in 2004.
Mark shares life, love and loss in an open and revealing conversation stretches from his recent time filming in Havana for his new film ‘Viva’ to his poignant experiences in Iran.
Iarla Ó Lionáird
Sean nós singer and songwriter Iarla Ó’Lionáird is Helen Shaw’s guest in this edition of The Family of Things. Iarla is the voice of the acclaimed Irish ensemble The Gloaming whose album by the same name has received multiple award nominations.
Iarla grew up in Cúil Aodha in Co Cork in an Irish speaking community in what he calls ‘ a hive of song’ and along with his ten brothers sang, as a child, in Seán Ó Riada’s choir. He talks about his relationship with his voice, his language and his creative journey from singing the cows back home to releasing his work through Peter Gabriel’s label Real World Records. Today he performs across the world not just with The Gloaming but also with operatic work by Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy.
Helen Shaw’s guest is Hans Zomer, Director of Dóchas, a development network, and lead organisation on the European Year of Development in Ireland. Hans talks about being shaped by his Dutch presbyterian roots, his family’s experience of World War 2 and his childhood growing up in Cameroon.
He speaks five languages but says he now feels Irish and dreams in English. 2015 is an action year for world development with two landmark UN events aiming to secure a new set of development goals and a global agreement on the environment and climate change.
In Episode 3 of our podcast series The Family of Things presenter Helen Shaw talks to Trinity based physicist Dr. Shane Bergin. Shane says people often think science is ugly but necessary, while he thinks it is beautiful and essential. Shane talks of his passion to communicate science to the world and to inspire the next generation of scientists through his teaching work at TCD.
Shane is behind the award winning project ‘Dart of Physics’ and in this interview he describes nano-science and its future. As a scientist, researcher and teacher Shane is often in the public ear and eye through his work but he shares his love of music, his delight in cooking and baking (every weekend!) and talks about the people he admires including Irish President Michael D. Higgins and Nobel poet Seamus Heaney.
In the second episode of the series, Helen Shaw speaks to Irish writer Denise Deegan, author of the hugely popular Butterfly Novels for teenagers. More recently Denise has also adopted the pen name ‘Aimee Alexander’ under which she has started to self publish her adult fiction novels through Amazon.Helen talks to Denise about her self publishing and where the idea for Aimee Alexander came from as well as taking it right back to the beginning to ask Denise when she started writing.
Denise, who has previously worked as a nurse, a checkout girl and a china restorer among other things, shares readings from her books, her approach to writing her novels and how her life experiences have been reflected in her stories and visa versa.
In this first episode of ‘The Family of Things’ series presenter Helen Shaw talks to Irish poet Nessa O’Mahony about her life, poetry, what inspires her.
She is a published writer having released poetry collections and verse novels such as ‘Bar Talk’ (1999), Trapping a Ghost (2005), In Sight of Home (2009) and more recently ‘Her Father’s Daughter’ (2014)
In this episode, Nessa tells us how she first began writing and the inspiration and stories behind her poems as well as giving us an insight into her personal life by sharing tales from her childhood memories with her father to what her family really think of her writing.
“Every week in my job I meet someone I would love to sit down with and talk in depth. Often I just get to chat about the day and never get the opportunity to take an hour and explore the questions that define us. That curiosity, that wonder made me create The Family of Things“
– Helen Shaw